Monday, July 30, 2012


I’m a fan of Oliver Stone. While I wasn’t overly impressed by a couple of his more recent films, like W. and World Trade Center, I have always enjoyed Any Given SundayNatural Born Killers and JFK, just to name a few. As such, I was excited for Stone’s most recent project, Savages.

For those who don’t know, IMDb explains the film’s premise: “Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.”

It’s a simple story, and timely too as Mexican drug cartels are constantly making headlines. You would think the combination of a provocative director, up-to-date storyline, and interesting cast would make for an engaging film, but that wasn’t really the case; in fact, I found Savages to be quite bland.

Given the source material, I was expecting some hardcore sex and violence, perhaps something along the lines of Natural Born Killers, but what I got was more of an subdued look at what the relationship between a small pot operation and the cartel could be like. There were a few instances of violence, such as a beheading video and the burning of a man, but I’ve come to expect more from Stone.

The movie started off fine and it was on pace to be something special, but somewhere along the line it stalled and failed to regain momentum. Character development ceased, the plot wasn’t pushed forward, and everything became mired. 

While Blake Lively was lovely to look at, I was left shaking my head every time she opened her mouth. The first instance of this came via an ill-advised narration theme, while other instances of dissatisfaction accompanied her performance. It seemed as if Lively was trying too hard, which proved to be a big turn off that even her good looks couldn’t overcome.

It was also dispiriting to know that she wasn’t even the first choice; in fact, Jennifer Lawrence was originally cast as the leading lady but had to pull out to do The Hunger Games. Needless to say, it was a wise choice by her, and I suppose it could have been worse as Lindsay Lohan had expressed interest in the role.

In terms of the other performances, they were hit and miss. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson were the film’s other two main characters, all of whom were involved in a bizarre love triangle with Lively’s “O.” Both did a decent job, but neither gave what I would call a memorable performance. I will say that it was cool seeing Kitsch playing a different role than he did in John Carter and Battelship, namely former marine and current badass/enforcer, Chon.

On the flip side, some of the supporting roles were pleasing. John Travolta did a good job in his role as DEA agent Dennis. I’ve become accustomed to seeing Travolta as a confident hero or dominating villain, so it was satisfying watching him pull off a character that was weak, unconfident and a survivalist. His character had depth, and it did not go unnoticed.

Likewise, I enjoyed Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek as members of the cartel. The former just makes a great villain, and his character in the film, Lado, was intriguing; likewise, it was cool watching Hayek put on her wig and play the role of a villainous. Both of their characters could have been explored even more, but they were certainly among the most interesting in the film.

Despite a few satisfying performances, Savages ended up being a fairly boring affair. I never felt a connection with the lead characters, the action/violence was tame, and what could have been an enchanting storyline proved to be uninspiring. I also despised the endings of the film, which definitely left me wanting. Savages wasn’t over-the-top in the least, and I’ve read more interesting cartel stories in the newspaper; as such, I recommend you skip this movie altogether. 

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 50%

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